Another new take on a game series I don’t really take on that often, not because I’m not a fan of rally, my choices in them is just very select.
The last two rally games each taught me something new.
Colin McRae Dirt showed me that rally games can be incredibly fun when done right, and V-Rally 4 helped me get to grips with manual gear shifting to better control the car, and since then, all my driving is with manual shifting.
Can the same be said about WRC9?
Let us find out.
NEWBIE ON THE JOB
From the start, I believed my rally career would have been decent enough as I am not a stranger to racing games, but still quite green regarding rally.
So I started myself in Intermediate and set off to conquer the tracks of Japan, New Zealand and Kenya. A quick tinkering with the controls to set up my preferred manual shifting style, and time for a quick training session as expected to see what I got myself into.
A rocky start at best with how the cars control for about a solid hour or so, just to make sure my thumbs is ready for the real track when I have to blaze through the checkpoint at around 140kph.
After another hour or so I thought I would have had the game figured by now, however, my frustration said otherwise as the cars’ handling is loose as soft butter on a hot pan, and even the slightest bump in the road can mess you around.
I decided to go play around with the settings of the car, transmission, suspension, gear ratio, etc. I applied prior knowledge in the hopes to have these four-wheeled beasts somewhat tamed before making my controller pass the finish line. This did change the behaviour somewhat, if changing means going from angry horse to angry dog, but I pushed on through, hoping it would get better, but it never did.
The final straw, I restarted the whole career, chose Junior level, and wouldn’t you know it, I could actually control the car around corners without the fear of it thinking that tripping over a pebble warrant a 180 Sideways Kick-flip into the nearest tree.
The cars became weightier, easier to steer, in short, I finally started to enjoy this, which then lead me to the conclusion that Intermediate should by law be either named or at the very least have a sub-title saying, Steering Wheel Required. I honestly could not wrap my head around the fact that Intermediate feels so unplayable.
The settings to fine-tune the car at best felt like I either had to go to the extreme to get any type of difference or none at all and just soldier on. This is where a small chunk of the frustration lies, enough to snap the analogue thumb grip clean off the stick. The Junior setting changed that thankfully and I could finally start having a lead foot and ever so slightly just poke the brakes in the same manner you would poke roadkill.
THERE IS NO “I” IN TEAM
Soon after a few races, you get introduced to your team that handles race events, a meteorologist for weather predictions, physio to get better rest in, mechanics to make sure your car gets the needed repairs during certain events, and so on. So money earned pays the crew to help keep you in your A-game.
Down to the driving under my new Junior settings, I made the needed progress to still get frustrated from time to time, but only due to my own mistakes. Events like the straight forward Rally from point A to B, Rally Cross, and Endurance.
The environments I was kicking up dust around looks good, but then again, I was flying past most of it trying to beat the clock while listening to the pace notes of my co-driver. Not going to lie, I still don’t know what half of them mean, so a lot was riding on me just trying to keep the car on the road.
The locations of New Zealand, Japan and Kenya are all distinct with Kenya having that beautiful African landscapes with the dirt roads clear to see as it contrasts with most of the greenery. When in Sweden, polar opposite as most of the road looks like a dugout ditch. I enjoyed these the most as you are usually given a higher tier car. Who doesn’t like more power?
Some events made you cover as much of the track in a set time. Sometimes during the day, and sometimes on a rainy night with only your lights and reflective surfaces to help guide you.
The cars range from Classic to Modern and they do look and sound good. The differences between the Front-Wheel drive cars is minimal, so the choice comes down to which manufacturer you need to keep happy for them to then pay you a nice bonus when meeting certain requirements.
MEDIUM LEFT INTO FINISH
World Rally Championship 9 is a title for long time fans of the series, and enough room for newcomers to get into it as long as they stay away from the Intermediate setting clearly meant for steering wheels. Yes, it’s a point I will hammer like me hammering the dents out of my controller from biting it too hard.
Compared to other rally titles, it just doesn’t look and feel that refined and polished, but yet does just enough to satisfy the crowd. If you have played WRC 8, stick to that, because at face value alone even I can tell that came far more superior in every possible way.
Being told that some events were taken out due to… reasons, kind of left an open slate for real creativity to have been put to good use, but nothing. It is like selling the Christmas Promotional Burger expecting the hype to be the same even though there is less of it and the accompanied XXL drink to be the selling point for washing it all down.
In short, I personally cannot recommend WRC 9 to someone who is new to the series, maybe worth a borrow from a friend to see if you like it.